To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 284W, on Afghanistan: overseas aid, whether (a) the original wells drilling programme commenced before a full water table assessment had been produced and (b) future well drilling programmes will be commenced before a further water table assessment is undertaken.
DFID included a water table assessment in its programme design and originally sourced an Italian NGO to undertake this. However, it was not completed as the NGO in question decided to stop working in Afghanistan. As Helmand is a priority for both the Government of Afghanistan and the UK Government, it was decided to continue with the drilling of wells, despite the absence of a water table assessment, because of the important benefits they can bring to the local population. We are in the advance stages of contracting DACCAR to perform an assessment and hope this will be done as soon as possible.